WICHITA — Gold, gold, and more gold.
Area track and field performers panned enough gold to make lifetime investments.
Scott City’s boys 4x800-meter relay team was perhaps the most inspirational of all.
The Beavers showed about as much heart as any group you’d encounter and walked off with the Class 3A state team championship as well, scoring 74 points to 45 for runner-up Garden Plain. Even with two subs in the final event, the 4x400-meter relay, the Beavers still captured that one (3:25.95) to make it one of the most memorable wins in school history.
South Gray’s Gilbert Peters repeated his Class 1A shot put (58-02) and discus (175-06) while teammate Craig Griebel went 1-2 in the 400 (51.50), 100 and 200, as the Rebels roared to their second consecutive 1A state team title, scoring 77 points to runner-up Centralia's 63.
Stanton County sprinter Devin Berens won the 100 and 200-meters (10.93 and 22.41) and anchored the Trojans’ 4x100-meter relay team to a victory in 43.67, but it wasn’t enough for them to overtake Bennington in the team chase, coming up short 59.5 to 53 points.
Holcomb’s boys, meanwhile, finished in a tie for fourth with GWAC member Hugoton with 34 points.
Special for Scott City
It almost wanted to make you cry.
And if you did, it would have been tears of sheer joy.
The emotions ran high for Scott City’s boys team Saturday on any number of fronts, but likely nothing matched when Wyatt Hayes crossed the finish line for the Beavers in a time of 8:09.51 as they won the 4x800 race, easily outdistancing Halstead’s mark of 8:15.27.
It was Jack Thomas, a junior, who ran the third leg of the event for the Beavers that made this such an emotion-filled victory.
The Beaver ace distance runner, who won the 3A cross country state last fall, has missed nearly all of the spring track season with a severe hip injury that will require surgery next week.
So running in his only race of the state meet, Thomas clicked off a split of right around 2:00 flat while Hayes capped off the inspiring win with a 1:58 anchor leg.
“It just means a lot because the year’s been tough with injuries and sickness,” a happy and relieved Thomas said afterward. “You come out here and you want to do well for your teammates, and we were able to come together and do this.”
Thomas tore the labrum in his right hip, and it will be repaired June 4 but will require a rehab of six to eight months, meaning he will miss his entire senior cross country season.
“Knowing that, and that I’m not going to run for awhile, I wanted to run this for the guys,” Thomas said. “They’ve been amazing in encouraging me, because sometimes the pain is just so much.”
In the process, the Beavers set a school record, making it worth every tear.
For a football fullback and champion wrestler, Scott City's Wyatt Hayes can sure run. The junior led much of the Class 3A 800-meter race, but it took a few seconds after leaning at the finish line and then watching the giant scoreboard to confirm that he was, indeed, a champion.
It was by the slimmest of margins, one-hundredth of a second. Hayes ran a 2:00.02, edging out Matt Goeckel of Council Grove (2:00.03).
When the results posted, Hayes let out a whoop and raised both fists to the sky, just as he did when he anchored the 4x800 team to victory earlier in the day.
Hayes led most of the race but got passed on the final curve.
"I saw him (Goeckel) and said I'm going to have to kick it a little bit sooner than I usually do," he said.
That's usually the final hundred meters, but he went sooner than that. The group started scooting out, and he saw his chance.
"I saw my opening and said I have to go get it now," Hayes said.
Goeckel pushed him the entire race, but that actually felt good, he said.
"That last 50 meters, I just gutted it out," he added.
For the third time in two days, Scott City’s multi-event ace Marshall Faurot came in second, this time in the 110-meter high hurdles, and for the second time he trailed a Caney Valley competitor.
Faurot, who placed second Friday in the high jump and pole vault, clocked a 14.89 to finish behind Caney Valley’s Tyler Watts, who finished at 14.46 seconds. He had come up short in Friday night’s pole vault, clearing 15-00, only to see Caney Valley’s Chandler Heid clear 15-06. He had lost to Sterling’s Tyus Wilson in the high jump, 6-04 to 6-06.
“I had a better start than I did Friday,” Faurot said of his hurdle race. “I hit a couple (hurdles) at the beginning and was in third, and I knew I had to pick it up. But I gotta give it to that group (of hurdlers). They are really special and fun to compete against. It’s the way the state meet is supposed to be.”
On the girls' side, it was Cimarron who very nearly pulled off a gold-medal peformance in the 4x800 relay, as four underclassmen combined to run a school record and area season best of 9:56.18, placing second behind Sabetha’s by the small meassure of .15 of a second.
The team of Macy Fugitt, Courtney Clinesmith, Cameron and Clara Bartlett will return intact in 2019, but for now will settle for the school record and a silver medal.
“It we beat the school record, we told ourselves we’d be happy,” Clara Bartlett said. “But we’re not satisfied.”
Fugitt, who ran the lead leg, said the heat was punishing.
“Exhausting in this heat,” she said said of her 800-meter run.
Clinesmith said she liked the fact there was no wind to affect the race.
“It took us awhile to feel this confident, but we knew we could be high in the finish,” Clinesmith said.
In the meet’s final event, the Scott City girls 4x400 relay team of Dulce Ayala, Emily Weathers, Madison Shapland and Emily Smith clocked a time of 4:06.59 to win the event.
Lakin's JP Perez tasted gold in the Class 3A 300-meter hurdles from, of all places, lane one.
He won the event in 39.42 seconds, over two-tenths of a second faster than the runner-up.
The sophomore, who entered the meet with the best time in that event in that class, felt lucky that he even qualified for the finals after crashing to the track in the prelims, where he finished fourth in his heat.
That's why he was in the inside lane for the finals.
And did it ever impact him.
"It really scared me," Perez admitted. "After I had the top time (coming in), I had the motivation to catch everybody. As soon as I caught everybody, I felt great."
Lane one with the curve was terrifying so he just ran and hoped for the best.
Once he had the lead, Perez clipped the final hurdle but still finished first.
"I closed my eyes on that one," he said. "I thought I was going to fall again."
He added that medal to a fourth in high jump, anchoring the fourth-place 4x400 relay and a fourth in the 4x400 relay.
For Holcomb’s Longhorns, it was a productive day with just a few exceptional performances as they produced a 4x100-meter relay gold-medal performance as Devin Mader, Garrett Williams, Peyton Leonard and Isaiah Armstrong clocked a 43.03 to win the short sprint relay event.
Armstrong, who had no time for recovery, had to run about 10 minutes later in the 400 meters, and the time lag certainly affected him as he clocked 49.90 to finish second in his specialty.
“Just didn’t have much left,” an exhausted Armstrong said after his 400 race. “Went to the podium, then went to the tent to get my number for the 400 and went to the track. Still, it’s been a great learning experience for me.”
Mader, meanwhile, clocked an 11.05 to take third in the 100 meters and Carter Blackburn, never fully recovered from a groin injury early in the season, couldn’t defend his 110-meter hurdle title, finishing fourth in 15.10 seconds.
The short relay came despite a tenuous handoff from leadoff runner Mader to Williams.
“Just didn’t get it to him at the right spot, and we stuttered for a moment,” Mader said. “It was pretty close going out of the lane, or past the exchange area, but we were told we were OK.”
Devin Berens of Stanton County capped off a trifecta when he won the 200-meter dash.
That added to his 100-meter title and anchoring the winning 4x100 relay earlier in the day.
What did it take to get gold number three?
"Honestly, it felt like just another race, I guess," the senior said. "I had to focus just like every other race."
But he was slower out of the start than he anticipated.
"I was behind when we hit the straight and I was a little worried, honestly," Berens said, probably by one stride length. "I didn't know if I'd have it in me, but I guess I did — luckily. I just took a breath every step just big arms. That's all I focused on."
For Wichita County senior Mareli Salazar, she made her first and only state meet experience a memorable one.
She threw the javelin 133-06 to capture the 2A event and cap off a meteoric rise in her specialty.
“It feels really great,” she said afterward, smiling big. “That was my goal because I knew after I threw it 133 earlier that I had a chance. Everything in the event just fell in place.”
Getting first was the big bonus after she had early expectations of fourth or fifth.
“It’s amazing that I was able to do this,” she said, explaining she got her winning throw on her second attempt, something she has done with regularity during the season. “I don’t know why the second throw is my best, but it is.”
There was expected to be little or no drama for Gilbert Peters in the boys shot put and discus.
And he upheld that expectation, winning first the shot put (58-02), just one inch shy of his earlier season best throw, and then came back several hours later to repeat his double-gold performance of 2017 by winning the discus with a toss of (175-06).
“I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t throw farther (his season best was 184-06.50)," but he was still pleased he defended both his throw titles on the same day in sweltering heat. “I had a little trouble with my grip on the discus with the heat and humidity. It was really slick.”
Peters was just as thrilled that he and his teammates were on the brink of defending their team championship.
“I’m glad I could contribute to the team,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of good guys who have been committed to doing our best in the events we compete.”
So in some ways, Peters was able to have his cake, and eat it, too, and he said he was looking for some angel cake with brownies and ice cream to top it off.
His teammate, Griebel, was equally happy to get a gold in the 400 with a time of 50.51, his best, and the first gold medal of his four-year career.
“I started off pretty good, and I figured if I just stayed with one of the other guys, I’d be in good shape, so I saved it for the last 100,” Griebel said. “The heat was getting to me, but it’s one of my fastest times. It’s my first one (gold), so I’m pretty happy. It’s nice to finally get one.”
Evan Crotinger finished off his senior year by finding gold in the Class 1A 800 meters.
Crotinger held off a late charging Tyler Askew of South Gray at the finish line, winning in 2:01.83.
Askew was a close second in 2:01.89.
"I suspected he (Askew) would be in the running, too, but it wasn't until 15 meters out that I noticed he was close. I was struggling."
His thoughts at that point were simple.
"Just push it through that last little bit," he said.
The Greeley County senior said his normal strategy is to ride someone's shoulder most of the race and then kick in the end.
Strategy changed Saturday, though.
At the 200-meter mark, he said, two runners in front of him crashed into one another.
"I took the lead after that. I wasn't able to sit beside them like I usually do," he explained. "I had to lead the whole thing."
Full state results can be found online at GCTelegram.com.